You know that stuff all parents say, about it being hard but life-changing and rewarding in ways that are
incomprehensible to non-parents?
And you kind of nod your head thinking they’re silly and cliche and what they’re saying doesn’t really make sense…
Well it’s all true.
This is my attempt to articulate how that experience has been for me.
Let’s start with the “hard” stuff. Like dealing with a fussy baby.
Whenever I saw people doing this I would think: why stress?
Who cares if your baby is a little sad? It’ll get over it.
It’s not like you’re going to ruin this person’s life because they cried for 10 minutes when they were hungry that one time, right?
And rationally that still seems true, but yet somehow as a parent it is so hard to actually behave that way.
Because there’s this little helpless creature that is completely dependent upon you for its every
want and need and you feel that if you let it be unhappy you’re somehow failing it.
It doesn’t make sense and yet it does.
One thing that does not seem to work is crying back at the child.
Or sleep. Sleep’s the thing that’s supposed to really suffer in the early days. And it does. Kind of.
Your sleep kind of goes from meals to snacks. Two hours here, three hours there.
In total I’m probably getting the same amount of sleep as before, it’s just really, really broken up.
Incidentally, I think this is why so many parents go to bed comically early—something that never made sense to me till now.
You actually need 10 or 11 hours of time in your bed to get the requisite 8 hours of sleep with a newborn.
So you “sleep” from 9pm to 8am. If you can.
But this break up of sleep does have weird effects on your psyche. I never feel really, truly rested.
And so I’m constantly wandering around in this slightly-distracted, not-quite-my-best-self state.
This is exacerbated by an everlasting paranoia that the baby will start fussing and you’ll have to deal with it.
So you can never get comfortable doing anything.
Flexibility. Flexibility is key. And it’s a complete mindset shift. You sit down to do something - let’s say write an email -
and you get into the flow of it. Your brain is working hard and maintaining a lot of context. Then boom. Crying baby.
You want to finish your sentence, finish your thought. But it’s so hard to ignore because of the above.
So you stop. Flow destroyed.
Multitasking takes on a whole new meaning with a child.
Now you could react to that by getting frustrated, resenting your kid, etc. And that’s the natural thing to do.
But it happens again. And again. And again. And you can’t live in this world of constant frustration.
Constant unfinished productive work that weighs on you. So eventually you just become flexible.
You accept that you’re no longer a person who can get things done in that clean, uninterrupted way.
And then it gets easier.
Flexibility is most important at night. Because at night you’re tired and you want to sleep and you want your baby to sleep.
And sometimes he does, but sometimes he’s not tired, or he’s got gas, or who knows what the hell he wants but
he just won’t stop making noises and it’s 3am and he’s been up for hours and why, why why won’t you fall asleep baby!?
And you don’t always get a satisfying answer.
Sometimes he just eventually settles himself and then you finally get to sleep a bit.
But there is no clear cause and effect, nothing to do again next time to fix things that same way.
And again, the best - and really only - thing you can do is be flexible and accept this new state of the world.
“Are you messing with me? You’re just messing with me aren’t you…”
So does being a parent suck? Ostensibly, yeah, it does kinda.
Your life is no longer your own and your day-to-day becomes filled with a lot of mundanity.
Holding a child while reading. Holding a child while singing. Changing diaper after diaper after diaper.
Having a twenty minute conversation about poo color and whether you fed baby 2 hours ago or 3 hours ago.
All those things your friends who were parents did that you thought were ridiculous and boring—that’s just your life now.
But, fear not, because there’s also this magic trump card about the whole experience.
And that is: the joy is real.
The very first night after Lockwood was born he slept on my chest for a couple hours.
This tiny, little human that had just entered the world. And he lay there breathing softly—occasionally snorting
like a pig—but mostly happy, comfortable and content.
And it sounds crazy but in that moment I was completely overwhelmed with love for the little guy.
The very first night of Lockwood’s life brought a surprising and overwhelming feeling of closeness and responsibility.
If you told me three weeks ago that my wife and I would be able to sit on a couch and stare at our
baby for ten minutes we both would have punched you in the face. And yet now that’s where we find ourselves.
And in the same way you somehow feel the baby’s pain and discomfort so acutely when he cries,
you also feel the joy and revel in the happy moments in a way that just doesn’t make sense.
Watching this little kid eat or sleep happily, figure out how to get out a fart,
and all these tiny little moments of life come with this irrational, wonderful shared exuberance.
At first we thought he was working on Blue Steel, but turns out this is just the face he makes when he’s trying to get out a fart.
Also everything is new! There’s a new first every day. First feed, first night, first diaper change, first trip out,
first trip in the stroller, first trip in the car, first bath, first smiles.
All these silly, and in many ways pointless milestones,
but yet somehow they add up to a fun and fulfilling sense of progress every day.
Not working helps a lot.
And the acceptance of not working to prevent getting frustrated by all the things that you feel like
you should be able to do while baby is sleeping or eating but just can’t.
I’m grateful to have the opportunity to dedicate the overwhelming majority of my time to just hanging out with this tiny human.
But all in all I guess it’s what everyone already told me. Things now are just… different.
Different in a way that no other thing in my adult life has made things different.
It’s like this child made its grand entrance into my life and did a table flip on all my previous priorities.
And then I just spend the time trying to figure out how pick up everything that fell off and adapt to the new normal.
But the new normal isn’t bad - though there are hard moments.
It isn’t magical either - though there are some really special moments too. It’s just… different. An adjustment.
It sounds ridiculous, but I already feel like a different person in a different life.
Not better, not worse, just new and weird and…permanent.
I think that’s maybe the hardest thing about all of this. How permanent the whole situation is.
It’s not one sleepless night - that’s easy. It’s not a week of constant interruption - that’s easy too.
It’s day after day. Week after week. Year after year.
Until this tiny little thing packs up and goes to college 18 years from now. This is my life now.
Guess I’d better settle in for the ride.
We’re in this together now!